. . . and because I'm trying to spend more time
. . . and because my husband is awesome . . .
I'm posting his talk to the Eastern Idaho Arts Council about the relationship between Art and Economic Development.
Thank you all for being here today. And special thanks to Dan and Kara for all the hard work they’ve put into today’s events. I’m here because I’m the Economic Development Director for Fremont County, and I’ve been asked to speak today on Art and Economic Development.We know, from what we’ve seen in other places that art can be a good strategy for economic development. Some of the things that have worked are; murals, art in vacant storefronts, providing marketing help or business advice to local artists, and community arts events like gallery strolls, art walks, and rambles.These things work for a variety of reasons, but they are good economic development tools because:
- They are home-grown successes. They aren’t some cookie-cutter idea that an agency pulled off of the shelf and tried to force on a community. They are local ideas, our ideas – thought up right here in our community. They work because they fit.
- They fit because they start small and then grow up until they are the right size for our community and its needs.
- They also work because one of the amazing, if not magical, things about art is that art nurtures art. Investing time, effort and money into the arts not only provides enjoyment, expression and (hopefully) livelihood to some of our community, it also inspires new artists.
I want to talk some more about that last point, the nurturing power of art, but I’m done talking about economic development. Because, really, economic development is too narrow a subject. If we’re supporting art in order to expand our tax base, then we are working in the service of very small gods indeed.I want to talk about art and community building. That is, I want to talk about the role and worth of art, and a community of artists, in a healthy and vibrant community.Now, lots of people over the years have talked about the value of art as public expression or because of the diversity it fosters. I don’t need to re-say what any of those people have said. Also, Dan and Kara are going to talk about art and community in a minute, and I don’t want to take away from anything that they will say. So I’m going to limit my comments on the worth of art to two brief points.First, any community with a healthy arts scene is strengthened by the way artists work. That is, artists make their living by reaching out to others and building connections. If you have art in your community, you have people who are actively building ties and strengthening the community. In a modern economy that often replaces personal, local relationships with bandwidth and global contacts, you need as many people as possible to be getting together and talking about stuff right here at home.Second, let’s go back to that idea that one of the things that makes art powerful is that art nurtures art. It happens that, because of the way we human creatures are wired, before there can be art, there must be artistic thoughts. This is the particular value of art that I really want to emphasize today.Art nurtures art by fostering, inspiring, enticing the sort of thoughts that lead to more art. That thinking, that spark of creativity, adds value to the quality of life of the whole community, even if, in a given instance, it doesn’t lead all the way to the creation of an actual piece of art.That spur to creative thinking is capable of adding more – of everything really – to those communities that enjoy it. More art, of course, but also more ideas all around. More active citizens, richer democracy, more friends made, more problems solved and better solutions to those problems, too.That’s why we need art. We think better when art is part of our lives. When we think better, we are better people. And better people make better communities. So I wasn’t kidding when I said that economic development is too small a reason to make or support art. In fact, if I had any advice about art and economic development, it would be to just do art and let the economy ride on its coattails.Thank you.